Surviving the Holidays during Deployment

Deployment happens. This is the Navy after all, right? And for most of us, deployment happens during the holidays. In my husband’s twenty years in the Navy we’ve missed more than half a dozen complete holiday seasons: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve (which coincidentally includes one of our kids’ birthday). Trust me when I say spending this time apart so often does not make it easier, but over the years I have learned a few strategies for Surviving the Holidays During Deployment.

Spending the holidays alone during deployment is the worst, but these tips can definitely help to make the most of this lonely situation.

Include Mom or Dad (the deployed parent) as much as possible.

Whether your service member will be gone for a few months or an entire year, include him or her as much as possible. In our family, this means Dad buys presents and cards before he leaves or sometimes makes videos for the kids to watch on Christmas morning. We make sure he has a holiday care package before he leaves and try to send him holiday videos, cards, and letters along the way.

Depending on your deployment, you might be able to email or chat on special days or even phone, Skype, or Facetime for the holidays. Make every effort to keep your deployed parent a part of the festivities.

Stick to your traditions.

I try to keep deployment as normal as possible for my kids. We all still go to work and school every day. We keep up with swim lessons and marital arts classes. Whatever we do when dad is home, we try to maintain while he’s gone.

This same rule applies to the holidays. I don’t ever want my kids to associate dad being gone with missing out on our family traditions. We still roast a big turkey on Thanksgiving, and we still chop down a ridiculously large Douglas Fir for Christmas. These are things our family ALWAYS does, and I know my sailor wouldn’t want us to skip that just because he isn’t home.

Celebrate with your family.

I am always with my family on holidays. It might be just my husband and my kids. It might be that my kids and I pack up and visit my parents or my in-laws or that they come to visit us. It might be the family that I have assembled over the years here in Washington, but no matter what I spend the holidays with family.

Try to remember the reason for the season …

Whether you are a religious person or not, I think we can all agree that the holidays should be about giving back and helping others. Serving others is a sure fire way to brighten up your day no matter how down you are feeling about missing your sailor.

There are so many ways to give back during the holidays. Donate to a food drive or a buy a warm coat for a child in need. Buy cars and dolls for Toys 4 Tots. Volunteer to serve a meal at a soup kitchen, visit a senior center, or just drop some change in the Salvation Army Bell Ringers’ cans whenever you go shopping. Every little bit counts, and every good deed will make you feel better.

And try to remember the reason for the deployment.

This one is going to be a tough pill to swallow, and I am going to ask you to dig deep here. First ask yourself why your sailor is gone in the first place. Is it a casual business trip that could have been postponed? Did he choose to miss your holiday together? No. Your sailor is serving our country, protecting our rights and freedoms, and honoring his commitment to God and country.

Now dig a little deeper and remind yourself that because your sailor is away, someone else … some other spouse … some other little child will have their mommy or daddy home this Christmas. Someone who maybe needs him or her more. Someone who didn’t have mom or dad home for Christmas last year perhaps.

This is what I tell myself in the very hardest of moments. He is gone because he made a commitment to our country, and I am here holding down the fort because I made a commitment to him.

Deployment is hard, and deployments during the holidays are the worst. But you can make it through. You can survive and even thrive while your sailor is away!

This post is sponsored by Lincoln Military Housing but as always all opinions are my own.

Surviving the Holidays During Deployment2

I’m So Thankful for My Friends

10 Tips for Fixing Your Busted FRG

You’ve just arrived at a new command with your sailor, and you’re headed to your first FRG meeting. You’re excited! You’ll meet some news friends, have a few laughs … it’s going to be great! But then you arrive, and no one talks to you. Perhaps it seems “clique-ish” or just plain disconnected. Maybe they’re arguing over money or activities, or maybe they don’t do any activities at all. Sorry, sister, your FRG sucks, but don’t give up. All FRGs have potential, and they are worth your time and energy. Here are 10 Tips for Fixing Your Busted FRG.

An FRG is only as good as the members who show up!

Why do we even need an FRG?

Because we need each other. An FRG’s job is to boost morale and provide a place for families to come together. Ever done a deployment on your own? If you did I bet you were wishing for a little help, a little understanding, a little adult time, or just a little distraction from how it sucks that your sailor is gone. That’s the purpose of the FRG.

So what can you do if your FRG sucks?

Show up

An FRG is only as good as the members who show up. Most FRG’s suffer because 3 or 4 spouses are stuck doing the lion’s share of the work. Not only is that an impossible situation, it’s a recipe for disaster. When just a few people are doing all the work, thse poor souls are going to get burned out, and they will eventually quit caring.


If you don’t like the way things are being done, show up and help make them better. I’ve seen lots of “committees” that were really just one harried mom doing all the work. I’ve known lots of board members who remained simply because no one else wanted the job. If you want to see a change your sucky FRG, BE THE CHANGE IN YOUR SUCKY FRG.

Be the change in your sucky FRG.

Make your meetings FUN.

But meetings are for planning and voting and allocating money, Jodi! Yeah … about that …

FRG's are supposed to be fun. If your's is BORING make a change!

I go to a lot of meetings, but the fun ones are the ones I always attend. They’re the ones I invite friends to, and they’re the ones I’m mostly likely to join in and get involved at.

So turn your meeting into a family potluck or ice cream social. Give away door prizes. Host a book exchange or a kids clothing swap. Make the boring business stuff clear, concise, and minimal, and fill the rest of your hour with laughs.

Always offer babysitting.

I can’t. I won’t. Not gonna. No.

That’s how I feel about sitting through a meeting while trying to wrangle a toddler or while watching another momma do the same. That meeting isn’t fun, and we already talked about that, right?

Make them interact.

Some people just naturally fill a room. They have no concept of the word “stranger,” and they will just walk up to anyone and start up a convo. Other people just aren’t as open. They sit quietly and wait for a friendly smile. They will open up, but sometimes you have to pull it out of them. SO PULL IT OUT OF THEM.

I’m a big fan of ice breakers and games. I’m a HUGE FAN of icebreakers and games that really help people connect.

  • Have everyone choose someone they don’t know, and ask them to interview and introduce each other.
  • Play “Answer My Question.” Have everyone right down a silly question on a piece of paper. Then collect and redistribute the slips. Now everyone gets to answer a question from someone they previously didn’t know. They’ll probably make a connection, and …
  • Being silly loosens everyone up. Ask people to tell the craziest thing that has happened in the last year/the last PCS/at the last duty station. These are the things that we can all relate to.

Make that money and spend it, too!

This tip is two-fold.

#1 – Never fund raise just to fund raise. Only host fundraisers for specific reasons. We need $500 for a children’s party. We need $200 for baby blankets. Great! Raise that money, and then …

#2 – Spend out! Think of your FRG budget as THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF YOUR HOME BUDGET. Your FRG isn’t saving for a vacation or retirement so there is absolutely no reason to hoard money in a savings account. Spend! Spend! Spend!

Be friendly.

Remember that every single person who shows up at your meeting, playdate, or bake sale is a volunteer. Be nice to them. Include them in conversations. Welcome them to the group. Ask for their opinions (not just their votes). Take notice of the person who looks like they want to say something, and ask what they think about the subject.The more times a person is spoken to (nicely) and the more times they speak out at a meeting or an event, the more they will feel invested in the group and want to come back.

Ask your members what they want and need.

Often times FRG boards get caught up in what they’ve always done OR in what sounds fun to them. Big mistake. Ask your people what they want. Post a poll on your Facebook group. Create a survey. Hell, just ask them! When you see a member at the commissary or the gym, ask them what they need that might make the FRG better.

Be consistent.

If you say there’s a meeting on the first Tuesday of the month, there better be a meeting on the first Tuesday of the month. If you promise a pool party on base, there better be a pool party on base. It is MUCH EASIER to lose people’s trust than to gain it back again.

Have fun!

If you aren’t having fun, how is anyone else going to have fun? Sometimes you have to plaster on a smile and fake it til you make it, but the more you have and promote fun, the more your families will, too!

FRG’s are a lot of work. I get it. I’ve totally been there in good groups and the worst ones, too, but FRG’s are sooooooo worth the effort! We all need support and a little bit of fun while the boat is gone, and the FRG is the PERFECT place to find it!


Homecoming: The Terrible, Wonderful, No Good, Very Good Day

The terrible, wonderful, no good, very good day. Every Navy wife, Navy spouse, military spouse knows the one I’m talking about … Homecoming.

If you haven’t lived it, you probably think I’ve lost it. Homecoming? Seeing your sailor for the first time in months? Wonderful and very good, yes! Terrible and no good? What the hell?!?

Let me explain.

Homecoming is not what Hollywood would have you believe ... at least not for me.

Hollywood and the media would have you believe that “Homecoming” is one single day of pretty dresses and perfect red lipstick, happy children dressed in their red, white, and blue finest, and handsome sailors striding toward their families smiling broadly as they wrap muscled arms around a wife ever so tearfully grateful to see them, hold them once again.

Fade to black.

The end.

Hollywood and the media know nothing. Let me share.

Homecoming for me begins about two weeks before the proposed Big Day. It begins when I notice that the milk in my fridge will expire AFTER my sailor comes home. Unspoiled milk makes it real.

He’s coming home! He’s coming home! He’s coming home …

The list making begins in earnest. Entire household deep clean. Fantastic homecoming dress. Matching children. Happy children! Pull out the glitter, kids, we’re making homecoming signs!!!

Then the worry sets in … will he care that I haven’t lost the weight I swore I would lose when he left? Will he have lost more weight then me … AGAIN? Will he see that I cut my hair? Will he hate it? Love it? Notice?

Will he be different? Am I?

I spend 13 days of those two weeks in a panic. Is the house clean enough? Should I plan a dinner? Should I dress up or go comfortable for the inevitable hours long wait? Will it be weird seeing him again … sharing the bed, the remote …the bathroom.

The Big Day

He’s coming home today. There’s no turning back. Shower, shave, and beautify (as best I can). I decide to go comfortable but cute. I decide to let the kids dress themselves. I decide that the house is as good as its going to get, and I decide that he likes McDonald’s so that will do, too.

I decide these things because fear, self-consciousness, and LIFE have kept me too busy in the last two weeks to really spend much time shopping or tweezing or cooking more than the meals we have eaten. It’s amazing how life doesn’t stop because I want to plan the perfect homecoming.

I still had to work. The kids still went to school. There were still grocery shopping trips, PTA meetings, laundry and dishes, boo-boos to kiss, bedtime stories to read, scholarship applications to proof, and homework to check.

Comfortable cute it is.

Enter Hollywood.

I am waiting anxiously. We do search a sea of faces for his. We do hug and kiss and cry and kiss some more. We do wave signs, and take him home with us …

And then the work of Homecoming begins.

He didn’t know we’d changed bedtimes. He yelled at the kids.

He didn’t know I’d rearranged the living room. He didn’t like his new seat.

He doesn’t like the new sheets; he missed the old ones.

He has grown accustomed to leading, to shouting, to people who just do what he says. I don’t “deal well” with following or being shouted at, and I’ve never been one to do as I’m told.

I missed cooking for him, but I didn’t know he’d eaten chicken every day for two months. I made chicken enchiladas on day 2.

I missed him, but I didn’t/don’t/won’t ever miss the “boat smell” that permeates the house for a few days.

I forgot how much less room there is in one bed with two people, one of whom has been sleeping in a confining rack for three months.

The kids fight for his time and attention as he adjusts to teenager huffs, toddler rambles, and four women of varying ages vying for his time.

To call it an adjustment is an understatement.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a whole lotta wonderful in those days.

Seeing his smile and the dimple in his chin that I’ve missed kissing.

Watching him read stories to the youngest and listen to teenager tales.

Sitting beside him on the couch I no longer have to sit on alone.

There is a lot of wonderful.

It’s just tempered by an equal amount of real.


10 Things You Need to Know Before You PCS to Washington

The last time Josh and I were choosing orders, we had a two options: Georgia and Washington. Georgia, hot, muggy, buggy Georgia, sounded good because we’d already lived there, and we loved the beach and living sort of in between our families. Washington on the other hand was something new. Something different. Neither of us had ever lived here, and while I had visited once or twice as a child, neither of us really knew what to expect. So inching up on his twenty-year point, we decided to take the plunge and PCS to Washington. Boy, were we in for a surprise!

10 Thigns You Need to Know Before You PCS to WA

You probably won’t live anywhere  near the ocean.

I grew up in landlocked Arkansas, but ever since I moved in with my sailor nearly two decades ago, I’ve lived (surprise, surprise) near the ocean. Navy equals boats equals ocean, right? Not so much in Washington. If you’re stationed at NBK you’ll live near Puget Sound which leads to the Strait of Juana de Fuca which eventually leads to the ocean. If you’re stationed at NAS Whidbey, you’re much closer to the ocean but still you have to go through the strait to see open waters.

You can get to the ocean, of course, but it may not be what you’re expecting.

Before we moved to Washington I had really only known beaches on the East Coast, and I looooove them. Hot sand, hot sun, and refreshing ocean waters. Those beaches are the best.

But that is NOT what you’ll find in Washington.

Washington equals rocky beaches.

Don’t get me wrong, the beaches here are beautiful here, but they are different. Many beaches are rocky instead of sandy, and Western Washington doesn’t really get HOT very often period. On our first visit to Point No Point in the height of summer in 2011, we saw teenagers playing volleyball … in jeans and long sleeves, and that’s pretty common. The beaches are lovely, but the water is too cold to ever really swim in, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll break a sweat unless you’re working out.

Beaching it in mid-July In Washington. Brrr ...

This is Long Beach in July. Is it a sandy beach? Yes, but notice we’re both wearing jackets and NO ONE is swimming. About half an hour after this picture was taken, my youngest, Alli, took a header into the ankle deep water and nearly froze!!!

Does it really rain as much as they say?

Yes. And no.

Fall and winter and sometimes part of spring are indeed overcast and wet. Very, very wet, in fact. But it doesn’t actually rain here like you’d think. Big rain storms are few and far between, and thunder and lightning are completely rare.

Washington is just wet and dreary. All the time. During the winter there just seems to be a prevailing mist that never quite goes away. It’s why you never see real Washingtonians carrying umbrellas. Because it’s not raining; it’s just wet.

Sidenote: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing, and lots of people suffer from it after moving to Washington. Please do not hesitate to seek help if the changes in the weather (or the prevailing gloom) begin to affect you.

But it doesn’t rain ALL year.

Summers in Washington are spectacular! Days are epically long and sunny, and usually temperatures are pretty mild. (True Washingtonians are sneering right now because of this past summer’s “heat wave.” All those weeks of temps in the upper 90s were actually quite lovely to me.) In the summer, mornings begin in the 4 am range, and you can expect daylight until 9 pm or later, which can be good or bad depending on two things … your kids and their bedtime. Bonus tip: If you have little ones who have an early bedtime, invest in blackout curtains right away. You’re welcome.

Driving here can be … frustrating.

Driving. Ugh. It’s the worst here for so many reasons. For one thing, everyone fears the speed limit, and they do their best not to go near it. If you like speed, you won’t like driving here. Another problem (for me) is the exit signs for major roadways … or rather the lack thereof. Driving north on Interstate 3 in Kitsap County, you will see exits with street names, randomly numbered exits, and one exit simply named “exit.” Giving directions is so frustrating here. Even when you get off the main roadway, it seems the streets were named just to confuse you. Many of the have at least two if not more names. If you drive on State Highway 303, you’ll also find yourself on Waaga Way,  Warren Avenue, and Wheaton Way. Having navigation in your car or making friends with Siri is a good idea for life here.

They call it the Evergreen State for a reason.

Of course that’s partially because of all the Evergreen trees. They’re everywhere, and they are majestic! I had never seen trees this tall outside of national forests before. This tree is in my backyard, and it’s nowhere near the biggest in my neighborhood.

The trees in Washington are HUGE!

Notice how it towers over my two-story house?!?

I, however, suspect the second meaning of “Evergreen State” has to do with the fact that it really is so green here. It’s not just the trees. It’s the moss that covers everything. Everywhere. All year long.

Washington is definitely the EverGREEN state.

Green trees, green plants, green moss covering anything that will stand still for a moment or two.

It may not snow very often or very much …

It doesn’t snow often here, and when it does it usually isn’t much and doesn’t hang around long. Usually it rains soon after a snowfall and melts it all away, but it will still stop traffic and close schools regardless. Bonus tip: If it snows at 8 pm, let your kids stay up late to play in it; it might be gone by the morning.

But it does get cold here.

The cold here is … different. It may not dip into the single digits, but because of the damp air, the cold is COLD. We’re not near the ocean, but the wind blowing off Puget Sound will cut right through you.

Washington loves a festival or a parade…

As Spring arrives so does festival season! Just in our little area, you have Viking Fest, the Armed Forces Day Parade, Whaling Days, the Blackberry Festival, Allyn Days, and more. If you venture outside of Kitsap County, you’ll find even more festivals from the Tulip Festival to the Lilac Festival to the Washington State International Kite Festival. There’s pretty much a festival for every reason under the sun here; you just have to find it!

And they also love live music and farmer’s markets.

Each town in our area offers weekly or monthly concerts featuring local bands, and during the spring and summer, most towns have farmer’s markets. From Bainbridge Island all the way down to Port Orchard, Washingtonians like to listen to music and buy their goods outside, and they do it right! Some of our favorite summer moments have been strolling through the Bremerton Farmer’s Market at Evergreen Park and kicked back in camp chairs at Port Orchard’s Concerts on the Bay.

Last time we chose orders we chose Washington, and after reading some parts of this list you might think we’d be scrambling to head back east as soon as possible. But … you’d be wrong. Josh recently negotiated orders specifically so we could stay! Yes the winters are dreary, and yes, the drivers make us crazy, but Washington as a whole is a pretty great place to live.